Ow, ow, ow… this reminds us of our start in France, nearly a year ago. We tend to get up late because of the grey sky. Once up, we take our time for breakfast (it doesn’t help that we can watch the French news on TV) and then we pack at snail pace. Where has our efficiency gone? On the road, we take it easy. Sylvie’s ankles are still a bit painful and we don’t want to hurt her knees as well! We feel quite frustrated. We know we can cycle up to 150 km or even just 100 km on the good days and here we are like two beginners. Luckily, there is always one of us to tell the other one: ‘Do you remember how quickly we progressed during the first weeks?’. So it’s grey, cold, overcast and the wind is blowing in the wrong direction. Here it means from the south … South? Warm? Er… no. Here the south wind is coming straight from the Antarctic and there is nothing to stop it or make it warmer. Tasmania is on the same longitude as Bordeaux but the climate is quite different! The weather changes really quickly and temperatures can drop from several degrees on the same day. As a lot of people proudly tell us: ‘We can get the four seasons in a single day!’. Despite all these annoyances, we are on cloud nine on our bicycles. We have found again our independence and our originality. Even Ben who hates the cold agrees he wouldn’t swap his bike for a car!
Most of the time, we can’t see the sea. The road is sheltered by a forest. So we feel the wind less but we don’t get the view. It’s a shame because the sea is a beautiful turquoise lined with white sand beaches. We are a bit disappointed but the next day we discover Freycinet National Park. It’s a peninsula on the North of Swansea and it’s lined with beautiful bays. We lock our bikes at the entrance and leave them under the care of cute wallabies which are feasting on some tourists’ garbage. The wallabies are like mini-kangaroos. We are melting when we see their big dark velvety eyes and their little front legs dangling like two small arms. And their big ears make them look like big rabbits! A one-hour walk takes us at the top of a hill from where we get a great view over Wineglass Bay, a large bay and a white sand beach. We can picture the first explorers setting foot on this beautiful beach… That night, it is raining again. We curse the campervans and the bungalows which take all the space. It’s not a camp site anymore! And that’s what we find everywhere: a few muddy plots for the tents and all the rest for campervans. And tonight, the kitchen is opened to the wind which means we have to eat our dinner with our jackets on. Not exactly pleasant after a day of cycling in the wind.
When we leave the camp site, we are told the boatman doesn’t work anymore. A lagoon goes along the coast and to go to Swansea we would have to make a detour of 50 km via the north. There isn’t enough trade so the ferryman only starts work again in October … well, we are not going to wait for him! We go on a quest for another boat but the village is deserted, not much chance of getting help. And to think the river is only 100 m wide! ‘They’ could at least have thought of the cyclists and built a small bridge. Suddenly, we hear an engine … a boat! It is fishermen picking up mussels. Ben runs on the beach and call to them. They agree but not before letting us know they know the regular fee: ‘It’s 10$ per bike’. Yes, yes, whatever, we just want to cross! Actually we only have 17$ but the fishermen are happy, it’s enough for two beers! We get off on a small beach, it was worth waiting. 30 km further, we are in Swansea, a small village near the sea. The camp site has a great view on the sea and is thus … windy! But our tent holds on. We are still impressed by this tent and happy to have bought it in Istanbul and sent back the other one. At night, we slip with delight in our sleeping bags: it is warm and cosy, we have a good book and our new head torches work brilliantly (it’s good that our old ones chose to die in New Zealand and not Khirghistan!).
The next day is less fun. We can see the coast and big grey clouds gather above our head. Just a few moments later, hail and heavy rain hit us. Quick, quick, we take the jackets and trousers out but it’s too late, we are soaked! Half an hour later, it’s too warm, we take everything off… and put everything on again an hour later. Grrr… we will never get there if we keep doing this fashion show! In the afternoon, the weather changes again. This time, the wind has decided to blow from the south so all the clouds that we saw going to sea this morning come back to us… Nooooo… more rain and hail! And this time with a big serving of icy cold head wind…. Cooool! The crows flying above our heads only add to our bad mood with their awful cries. We have only done 50 km when we get into Triabunna but are nearing a breakdown and any little grey cloud looks suspicious. So we decide to stop for the day. For once the camp site is great: there is a big grassy (not sandy!) area, a genuine kitchen with TV and the owners are very friendly. And there are three shelves of books for exchange (heaven for Sylvie).
We celebrate our 10,000 km in Buckland, a tiny village. We celebrate in a roadhouse with a giant burger and some chips. Not so sure about the fries … bad idea indeed when it comes to climbing a big uphill just after lunch. Especially a hill called ‘Break-me-neck-hill’ … we love Australian humour!
Lost in her thoughts, Sylvie hears a whistle, and another one. Puzzled, she looks in the trees, what kind of bird sings so loudly? Then, she looks in her mirror … oh, how come Ben is not behind her anymore? Mmm… maybe there is a link with the whistle? She turns back, passes two cyclists (we haven’t seen that many on the way), they wave at her (ok, so nothing happened to Ben) and one km further, there is Ben waiting at a… junction. We stop in Richmond, a lovely little town with old fashioned houses. Another ‘open to the wind’ kitchen for tonight.
We have breakfast with a fireman who is enjoying some holidays after having fought for a few weeks the fires in Victoria. We now understand why there have been so many victims (about 200 people). Most people died on the first day. Everybody was taken by surprise, the fires were very powerful and the wind very strong so it spread quickly. By the time, the firemen managed to help and alert people, it was too late. We also meet an Australian family of three, from Queensland, who is travelling around Australia for a year in a campervan. Funny, we were just talking of doing that one day with Ben!
In Hobart we meet Rob and Anne and their 10-month old son, Oscar. Rob is Keith and Wendy’s son (Kate’s brother). They kindly offer us to stay with them. We just have the time to say: ‘Maybe we can pitch the tent in your garden…’ that a torrential rain falls in the garden. We look at each other and laugh … ok, maybe a bed in the house would be nice! We have a great time in Hobart. Anne works for the ABC (Australian British Corporation, like the BBC). Rob used to work as a chef for a top restaurant in Hobart. But he was working crazy hours so he decided to stop to take care of his son. And at the same time, he is also re-training in IT. He takes us to see Port Arthur (formerly a convict colony). Between two showers, we discover beautiful bays and also a rocky terrace which looks like it has been tiled up. In the afternoon, we visit the city centre. It is quite small and actually, it’s the harbour we want to see. There is the Steve Irwin (from the Australian reporter who got killed by a sting ray three years ago). It’s a big black boat flying the pirate flag. It belongs to the Sea Shepherd (the equivalent of Greenpeace) and was recently involved in an incident with a Japanese fishing boat. It bears a big scratch on one side of the hull. There is also the Astrolabe, a big red steel boat, from Marseille. It is used for expeditions in the Antarctic. In the evening, while Anne is taking care of Oscar, Rob reveals his cooking talents: salmon roulade with pesto risotto and roasted vegetables … what a treat!
The next day, Rob just has time to try Ben’s bike (he is a motorcyclist so he finds it easy) and then we rush to the town centre to catch our bus for Devonport. We meet up a few minutes with Keith and Wendy just before boarding the ferry. Just long enough to learn they have booked their tickets for this summer … they are going cycling in Europe! Holland, the Loire Valley and England … let us know if you are on their route and want to meet them!
The next morning, a good surprise awaits us at the ferry: Robin and Shanon are here! Shanon wanted to come and welcome us so she and Robin got up at 6:30 even though it’s holiday. What a brave and kind girl! We all cycle back home along the sea.